Jimenez adjusting to new role in DC

Jimenez adjusting to new role in DC

WASHINGTON -- D'Angelo Jimenez has been a professional baseball player since 1999, but this year has been a new experience for him.

He's been a pinch-hitter for the Nationals, and he has been struggling to find his rhythm at the plate. In 25 at-bats this season, Jimenez has just one hit and four walks.

Still, he knows that dwelling on those numbers won't do any good, so instead, he focuses on preparing for the next time manager Manny Acta calls his name.

"Every time he puts me in, he knows that I'm going to get a good at-bat and try to get a hit," Jimenez said. "I don't want to change my routine."

Jimenez was with the Nationals for most of April before being sent to the Minors. He was brought back on June 25, but he has yet to record a hit in 11 plate appearances since.

Jimenez has been used as a starting infielder throughout much of his career, but he hasn't seen regular work since starting at second base for the Reds in 2004. He hit .270 that year.

After stops in Oakland and Texas, Jimenez was picked up by the Nationals for the 2007 season. He knew coming in that he would be a pinch-hitter, and he has worked to adjust to the role.

"You only have one at-bat," he said. "It's only one chance to get a hit or get on base to help your team."

The switch-hitter is in good hands in the batting cage. Nationals hitting coach Lenny Harris holds the distinction of having more pinch-hits than any other player in Major League history. The two discuss strategy and technique as Jimenez takes his swings each day.

Also important is the support of Acta. The manager pointed out that when Jimenez is unsuccessful at the plate, he's not just going 0-for-1, but rather adding to his season tally and feeling like he went 0-for-19.

"It's going to take more than one at-bat for him to snap out of it," Acta said. "The best thing for him would be to get him more at-bats."

That may not be possible in a crowded Nationals lineup. Jimenez was called up when starting shortstop Cristian Guzman sprained his thumb, but he competes for pinch-hitting chances with Tony Batista, who has reached base in four of his last seven pinch-hit at-bats.

In the Minors, Jimenez found success at Triple-A Columbus, hitting .368 during his time there as an everyday player. But since being promoted to the Nationals, he has struggled in his new pinch-hitting role.

"I'm positive," he said. "Every time I go out there, I try to have a good at-bat. I'm getting counts to 3-2 or 3-1, trying to work the pitcher."

He's also tuning out the distractions around him, and believing his coaches who tell him that things will turn around.

"I'm in a slump now," Jimenez said. "But I know everything is going to change."

Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.